Tuesday, January 13, 2009

History in a Family Heirloom

My Grandma Emma has been "liquidating" her Earthly belongings for at least a decade now. She is going to be 85 years old in February. My grandparents have lived in the same house for nearly 60 years and were lucky enough to hold onto keepsakes and certain other items from long ago. Grandma's goal is to simplify her life by getting rid of things she has no use for. To clarify, her house is not cluttered--she has a shed, a garage, and a few closets worth of stuff and memories--her house is neatly kept.
Grandma's only sister, Eva Laura, passed away a few months ago, just before her 99th birthday. Until a few months before her passing she was an active person, unlike most 98 year olds! She traveled, gambled, went out with friends and was always making her own little crafty creations, like dolls and potholders.
Grandma's mother, Lena Looney, was alive during my lifetime. I'm told Grandma Looney adored me. I do remember her wanting my attention when I would pass her sitting in her rocking chair or her bedroom. My closest sibling, Susan, did not like her, was afraid of her as a matter of fact. She called her "The Witch". Grandma Emma has told us that Grandma Looney was not fond of Susan either. I do not know why. What could someone have against a 3-year-old girl? Anywho, I believe Grandma Looney died at the age of 98, on her own terms. That's another story.
My point is I think Grandma Emma has a lot of years left. I think she thinks so, too. She doesn't want to be bogged down with a bunch of belongings and prefers to take care of that business right now while she is able. She's been handing down a variety of items to her three sons and myself and probably others, too. I remember being a teenager and Grandma telling us grandkids to go around and put dibs on any of her household things that we wanted to inherit. We all thought it was morbid of her to talk like that. But eventually we realized she was serious and we ought to start staking claims now before someone else took what we wanted. Susan chose my grandma's beautiful old art deco vanity, one of those that has a big huge circular mirror and a cute little matching seat. It looks to be in pristine condition.
Some of Grandma's hand-me-downs have already been given to us. I've received several of them. The most recent one is the subject of this post: My grandma's charm bracelet. This dates back to the beginning of WWII, when Grandma graduated high school, the beginning of the "Golden Age of charm bracelets" which lasted until 1960 when the fad fell out of fashion. There are 21 sterling silver charms on the bracelet, each one a gift from her aunts, uncles, friends, parents, etc. I think they were graduation presents. She said each charm sold for between $5 and $25 back in those days, which was a sacrifice for anyone during those times. Each charm had special meaning. Almost every charm is inscribed or engraved with the name of the person who gave it to her. Those left blank, Grandma has no recollection of the gifter. She typed an entire page describing each charm, who gave it or why it was given. I have photographed my favorites, the most unique.
The flag charm was a gift from a Colonel Caphton (pronounced Capeton). The Colonel's wife lived in a big house up the street from my Grandma and she would stay with this woman while her husband was away during the War so she wouldn't have to be alone. I like that story.

I just think this one is the prettiest. It's a flower on a platform of mother of pearl. None of the other hearts are anything like it.

There is a charm in the first photo that was replicated from Grandma's high school class ring. She grew up in Fort Worth, Texas. I would love to visit there some day. Maybe on my "dream-roadtrip"! And maybe Grandma would go with me. We've only been talking about doing that for, I don't know, 20 years now. Ha!

Included with the bracelet were four other unattached charms/pendants. One from "Daddy" her dad, one from a "Harvey" she doesn't remember, one that looks like a four-leaf clover with Catholic Saints on each petal and one photo pendant with a picture of me and Susan when we were very little. Grandma's wish is that Raquel gets this charm bracelet when she graduates high school 13 years from now (gosh, that doesn't sound very far away). She has another bracelet that is meant for Maxine but I haven't seen it yet. I really appreciate knowing my family history and especially having meaningful items from the past that show what kind of family my girls and I came from. Thank you Grandma! Love you much!


HektikLyfe said...

Dude that is SUPER cool! Are you going to add to it???? If so...what will it be??? Man, you're making history here how does that feel?

Sarah Jane said...

Thanks, HL! I am glad someone else thinks it's SUPER cool! I do not want to add to it. I think it is complete. My grandma gave me my own gold charm bracelet when I graduated high school and has given me a couple of charms for it since then. Maybe I'll start building on that one.
I feel fortunate and grateful for such a piece of history.

Iris said...

That is one gorgeous bracelet! Lucky lucky you. And how fun to make history! Are you keeping any items of your own to hand down?

I agree. I think your grandma is going to live a long time. At the same time, I think she is SMART for asking people to ask her for things while she is around! That's the way it should be. Not like when people have to read a will and fight for things while mourning (not saying you all would do that) but it has happened.

I like that flower part of the bracelet too!

Sarah Jane said...

I think she's smart, too :)

One thing I am handing down and HOPING doesn't get destroyed over time is my handmade scrapbooks. I need to start working on Raquel's baby scrapbook before I forget things!

Iris said...

Good idear! Write down your ideas at least :)

Petrea said...

Sarah Jane, you absolutely captivated me with this post. This bracelet is priceless because you love your grandmother. But she made it even more meaningful by writing up the information she remembers about each charm. How generous of her. What a wonderful woman she must be.

Sarah Jane said...

Oh, Petrea, thank you. I do love her. I admire her, even. I'm grateful to be related to her.